My internship has been going great so far but there have been a few things that I have experienced that I didn't at TRT. Its a fact that in wildlife rehabilitation you have to deal with death. It comes in many situations in rehab. It can be an animal that has just come into your facility with fatal wounds that it dies within minutes, an animal that has been doing well then one morning you go to check on it and it has passed in the night, or an animal that you know has been struggling and you want to do everything you can for it but the best thing for this creature is to be "put down" or "put to sleep". Any way you look at it death is a part of life and a part of wildlife rehabilitation.
I for one wasn't completely sure how I would handle it. At The Raptor Trust I knew when some animals were put down because either they were no longer around or I would ask about the animal to see how it was doing and one of the staff members would tell me he was "no good." This is a term that is used from what I undertsand in most rehab facilities. Both rehab centers I have worked in, when an animal isnt going to make it or has a fracture or injury that renders it unreleaseable, they say "they are no good." I don't know I feel about it but I guess it makes it a little easier for you to realize what is going to happen.
Back to my point, at TRT I never saw an animal actually being put down, but I saw it for the first time here at Avian Haven. It was an adult Bald Eagle that had a high humerous fracture that was close to the joint. In most cases any fracture in a raptor that is very close to the joint, they are not going to have a good range of motion and therefore not be have the ability to fly and hunt. There was talk about placement for the bird but there are regulations about placement animals and the wing would have to be amputated and there are other laws about Bald Eagles that I wasnt sure about, I believe it stated that eagles can't have any extremities removed. This bird was stuck between a rock and a hard place. If placement were an option most facilities would'nt want him because he was an adult and bald eagles are no longer endangered so there isnt a "demand" for them in facilities.
This birds situation was a heartbreak one. We only had for a week and then one day while I was doing my rounds, Marc got the eagle and brought him over to the area where they anesthetize the birds for routine medical procedures or x rays but also for euthansia. I thought nothing of it until a volunteer said "I can't stand to see them put down birds." I walked back into the area and couldnt realize what I was watching, Marc was putting this bird down. I watched until Marc placed a stethoscope against the birds chest then wrapped the bird in a towel to have some final peace. I didnt understand how I was supposed to feel, I had just watched an animal die. One moment he was alive and the next gone. It hit me pretty hard and the rest of the day was rough. Trying to wrestle was all the emotions that come with it was difficult for me. I called a friend that night and told her had happened and finally cried for myself and for the eagle.
I think to myself will I ever get used to it? Should I ever get used to it? Is there a half way point where you understand what you're doing is the right thing and there is no reason for tears? I know i've just started my career in wildlife rehabilitation and there will many more birds that die but I have to realize that its worth everything when you release birds that seemed as though they had no chance or when you have been incubating eggs for weeks and finally you see that star crack. Then you know that life has begun and everything makes perfect sense.